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Jolly joker ; Ernest Borgnine takes lifetime honor in stride

For Ernest Borgnine, life is a laughing matter.

The veteran actor of screen favorites such as "Marty," "McHale's Navy" and "The Poseidon Adventure" seems to punctuate every story with at least a little chuckle, and more often, a long and loud laugh.

Borgnine, 94, was recently recalling a call from Screen Actors Guild President Ken Howard, who told him that he would receive the group's lifetime achievement award, to be presented Sunday at the SAG Awards.

"He [Howard] said, 'We've nominated you. Would you accept the fact that you are to be the winner of the Screen Actors Guild Award?' " Borgnine said. "And I said, 'But am I worth it? Really. It comes down to that. What have I done, really? But, hey! I'm not going to turn it down.' "

Then he laughed.

His mother suggested that he go into acting when he came home from the Navy after World War II.

"She said, 'You always like getting in front of people and making a fool of yourself, why don't you give it a try?' " he recalled. "I was sitting at the kitchen table and I saw this light. No kidding. It sounds crazy. And 10 years later, I had Grace Kelly handing me an Academy Award."

Borgnine laughs, as if still in disbelief, after all these years.

Borgnine said his philosophy about acting came from his early days struggling in New York City, when he spotted a sign on a chestnut vendor's cart: "It said, 'I don't want to set the world on fire. I just want to keep my nuts warm.' "

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